In Brief

Are Oxford and Cambridge committing ‘social apartheid’?

Labour MP attacks universities over failure to admit black students

Oxford and Cambridge universities are practising “social apartheid” by catering to elite white students, Labour MP David Lammy has claimed.

Nearly one in three Oxford colleges, and one in five Cambridge colleges, failed to admit even one black, British A-level student in 2015, according to newly released university data published by The Guardian. The elite universities educate many of Britain’s future leaders, with Oxford alone producing 27 prime ministers, according to Time magazine.

“This is social apartheid and it is utterly unrepresentative of life in modern Britain,” former education minister Lammy told The Guardian.

A spokesman for Cambridge said its admissions were based on academic considerations alone, adding that the greatest barrier to disadvantaged students was poor results. But Lammy told The Guardian that almost 400 black students get three As or more at A level each year. This raises questions about “whether there is systematic bias inherent in the Oxbridge admissions process that is working against talented young people from ethnic minority backgrounds”, he said.

The elite status of the universities may also be a contributing factor. A 2016 survey by Sutton Trust found 13% of state teachers wouldn’t advise their students to apply,  because they were concerned they wouldn’t be happy, or felt they were unlikely to be accepted, according to The Daily Telegraph.

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